Saturday, November 17, 2012

A lot of thought...

Cinematographers, process junkies, gadget-coveters, film-lovers, geeks: this one's for you.

Film vs. Digital.

I've been giving this a lot of thought lately, and doing a fair amount of reading, too.  This morning, I reached the tipping point when the BFI tweeted a quote attributed to Martin Scorcese.  “No matter where the cinema goes, we cannot afford to lose sight of the beginning."  My simple rebuttal to this is: why?

I suspect it has more to do with tradition, stagnation, and fear than it does with anything else.  I don't mean Scorcese personally in this case (although even the notion that there is one coherent "cinema" is ridiculous), but the whole cadre of tradition-bound folks who seem determined to choke off the forward  progress of movies.

The "beginning" of cinema is a time of great unevenness, much of it lost, and the great bulk of what remains is really, really boring to today's general audiences.  I agree with the idea you can learn from great films, but I dispute the notion that anything achieves greatness and deserves reverence simply because of its place in the timeline.  With that mentality, we'd buy bottles of leeches instead of Advil for the collective headache we've gotten over these traditionalist arguments.

Which brings me to film vs. digital as a method of originating a cinematic story.  "Originating" because the use of film in theaters -- except in specialty theaters -- is essentially over.  The business decision has been made and the film corpse is leaving the theater.  So, how do artists originate their stories?  What is the best way?  What is the true way?  What is the way they did it in "the beginning"? (Just kidding with that last one.)

The real answer is: you'll always have choice and it should be your artistic decision.  Like vinyl in the aftermath of cds, film isn't going away, but it's going to be more of a specialty, more of a particular artistic niche.  For the layman, without a color scope, and watching a film on their home flat-screen (on which they haven't bothered to change the factory picture-settings), there's simply no difference in the end result.

The real answer is: when you evoke the "beginning" of cinema, you imply that all the collective learning of the past 130 years isn't encapsulated in today's forms, which is backward thinking.  Future generations of filmmakers are going to take "cinema" in directions the early progenitors never thought of and you can either go along or become increasingly an historian rather than artist.

The real answer is: Skyfall.  Shot digitally, projected digitally.  It's simply beautiful.  The visuals run a complete dynamic range and serve the story in a synchronization that contributes to the audience's pleasure in the film.  As a filmmaker, what more would you really want?

The real answer is: digital.

Now, let's all move forward, shall we?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

On Being Informed

After a year of subscribing to the home delivery of the New York Times, I'm struggling with the question of how, exactly, it impacts my life.